The Slightly Longer Way – Day 34

The Slightly Longer Way Series - Table of Contents

EntryNotable Places/EventsRSJP
Day 0 – Friday, May 05 2023 to Sunday, May 07 2023Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo-
Day 1 – Monday, May 08 2023Train from Tokyo to Kyoto-
Day 2 – Tuesday, May 09 2023RSJP Orientation DayW1D1
Day 3 – Wednesday, May 10 2023Placement test, Kinkakuji/Golden PavilionW1D2
Day 4 – Thursday, May 11 2023Kyo-Yuzen Dyeing WorkshopW1D3
Day 5 – Friday, May 12 2023Mori Touki-ken Pottery WorkshopW1D4
Day 6 – Saturday, May 13 2023Ichihime Shrine, Nishiki Market-
Day 7 – Sunday, May 14 2023Nara, Todaiji Temple-
Day 8 – Monday, May 15 2023UrasenkeW2D1
Day 9 – Tuesday, May 16 2023Nijojo CastleW2D2
Day 10 – Wednesday, May 17 2023Tojiin TempleW2D3
Day 11 – Thursday, May 18 2023Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street, TsubomiW2D4
Day 12 – Friday, May 19 2023Kyoto StationW2D5
Day 13 – Saturday, May 20 2023Kamogawa River, Shimogoryo Shrine Kankosai-
Day 14 – Sunday, May 21 2023Shimogoryo Shrine Kankosai-
Day 15 – Monday, May 22 2023Kimono-ProW3D1
Day 16 – Tuesday, May 23 2023Ritsumeikan Library, Hama SushiW3D2
Day 17 – Wednesday, May 24 2023Domoto Insho House, Kamogawa, IchijojiW3D3
Day 18 – Thursday, May 25 2023Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Hama Sushi (with Kel)W3D4
Day 19 – Friday, May 26 2023Super KaraokeW3D5
Day 20 – Saturday, May 27 2023Nothing special-
Day 21 – Sunday, May 28 2023Demachi Masugata Shopping Street, a long walk home-
Day 22 – Monday, May 29 2023Nothing specialW4D1
Day 23 – Tuesday, May 30 2023Kyoto International Manga MuseumW4D2
Day 24 – Wednesday, May 31 2023Ritsumeikan LibraryW4D3
Day 25 – Thursday, Jun 01 2023Maiko/Geiko demonstrationW4D4
Day 26 – Friday, Jun 02 2023Final Presentation, Taiko LabW4D5
Day 27 – Saturday, Jun 03 2023Kusatsu-Juku Honjin, Lake Biwa Museum, Omi Hachiman (with Zian)-
Day 28 – Sunday, Jun 04 2023Omi Hachiman City Museum, Omi Jingu (with Zian)-
Day 29 – Monday, Jun 05 2023ArashiyamaW5D1
Day 30 – Tuesday, Jun 06 2023Nothing specialW5D2
Day 31 – Wednesday, Jun 07 2023Final exam, Osaka, Manga Cafe (with Zian)W5D3
Day 32 – Thursday, Jun 08 2023Osaka, Namba (with Zian)W5D4
Day 33 – Friday, Jun 09 2023RSJP Graduation DayW5D5
Day 34 – Saturday, Jun 10 2023Leaving Zian, Train from Kyoto to Tokyo, Ikebukuro-
Day 35 – Sunday, Jun 11 2023Shibuya, duo MUSIC EXCHANGE-
Day 36 – Monday, Jun 12 2023Shinjuku, Sakura House, Sophia University-
Day 37 – Tuesday, Jun 13 2023Akihabara-
Day 38 – Wednesday, Jun 14 2023Flight from Tokyo to Edmonton-
Final Thoughts--

Saturday, Jun 10 2023 (Day 34)

Random Notes

Here’s some extra stuff that didn’t make it into yesterday’s blog post.

Firstly, a picture of the outside of the Ritsumeikan booklet (inside is a graduation certificate), a clear file (there’s a pen too but I have no idea where it went), and then the Ritsumeikan shirt, metal buttons, and badge in the top left. To the right of the badge is an origami rose, one of the Buddies made it for us and gave it out during the post-ceremony mingling. I believe it was Genji but am not 100% sure, everything sort of happened in a blur.

To the right of the rose, was a yellow envelope containing actual printed pictures from the Kimono-pro event on Day 15. Here are the pictures inside my envelope:

I’m sorry but I look ugly as heck. Look how great Zian looks in her sky blue kimono next to everyone else though.

We also received a box with our pottery result from way back on Day 5. Mine looked like this:

I had meant to make a sitting tray for Tigey, as he used to sit in a paper origami box for years back in the 00’s when I was living with my siblings in Edmonton 4012. It got too tattered so it got retired into a box or bin somewhere. We were told that the pottery would shrink once it was fired and hardened but it didn’t really shrink. That just means space for Ducky or Ally to sit with him though. Assuming the bowl makes it home in one piece. It’s wrapped in newspaper but not the box it came in as that was too large, so it still has to make the return airplane journey intact.

This was a very emotional day; this was the day I would say goodbye to Zian, and I suppose the RSJP in general, and while I didn’t shed any tears in her presence, I certainly did shed some before and after — in the morning when I woke up at 4 am, at the shinkansen station just before leaving Kyoto, on the train to Tokyo, and even in my dinky little room in Ikebukuro in Tokyo afterwards. Even now, one day later, writing this on the afternoon of the 11th, I can still feel the emotions roiling within me, though one or two nights’ rest has dulled the sense of loss somewhat. And as time passes, this will get better, and the sense of loss will get eclipsed by a sense of fulfillment and warmth for the experiences and the magic I had here.

For this reason, although I plan to share our goodbye notes to each other on the blog and wax poetic about how much I appreciated Zian and what meeting her meant to me, and what I hope from the future, I can’t do it right now. Not only because I don’t think I can do it justice until I organize my thoughts better, but also because I literally cannot do it right now — the wound of separation is still too raw. We had done and seen so much together and had been basically plastered to each other’s sides for the past 5 weeks, and knowing that that time had passed is a pain that I haven’t felt since I left my Sec 2 friends to come to Canada in 1998. I have cried at other things over the years, of course, particularly on issues surrounding my gender transition, but that’s a different sort of emotional pain. Also I don’t mind sharing all this because I don’t believe that there should be a stigma around crying, it’s not a thing to be ashamed about.

All that said, in a few days when I am back home, I should be able to properly write about my emotions and feelings, so all this will have to wait until my final summary post to wrap up the The Slightly Longer Way series, the one following Day 38. For now, instead, I will concentrate on writing down and capturing the happenings of the day and my feelings as I remember them.

Zian came to my house and room about 9:45 am, and we sat there to chat for about 20 minutes or so. A truncated last chat, but it still felt great. I think both of us were trying not to get overwhelmed by emotions and “show weakness”, for all I said about stigmas earlier I know I definitely was at points! But it wasn’t all that bad. We talked about keeping in touch in the future and I proposed doing a video call later that night — that would give us something right off the bat to look forward to and give us a bridge over the immediate emotional hump. We also said we were going to keep in touch (through a voice or video call) at least once a month if possible, although I hope it’s a lot more often than that. However, time zones might make things difficult. So we got to talking about time zones between Canada, Australia, China, and Japan. I had no idea that due to the difference in when Australia starts and ends their DST, the time difference between Edmonton and Sydney varies from 16 to 18 hours through the year. Not that I’ll be in Edmonton for much longer.

She snuck a picture of Tigey when I tossed him to her to pat and squeeze — he’s very fond of her too as she treats him well.

And then she took a final picture of us together, in my room.

We also traded gifts, of course. She left me a letter and a surprise — she had snuck off to Demachi Futaba in the morning, and gotten me (and herself!) some sweets from there. That was the store that I had seen really long lines at, back when I visited the shopping street on Day 21, and which I had suggested the next day that we should visit at some point if we had time because they allegedly had some of the best sweets in Kyoto. She got both of us some mochi in a box. I realized that the little imp had casually asked me what the shop was called and where it was, while we were on the train back from Osaka the evening before, and I had answered her and said that it was already closed (and thus that it was too late for us to stop by it on the way back) without realizing her devious plan.

We didn’t do farewell hugs or anything emotional like that, just a promise to keep in touch, a sayonara AND a jaa mata (the first is a goodbye with finality, the second is a goodbye with intent to meet again soon), and reaching out and touching each other’s hands at my front door one last time. And then, like a flash of lightning, she was gone.

After composing myself, I finished packing up what little stuff I had left. My checkout time was 11 am so I didn’t have all that much time. I could technically have gone over to her place and killed a couple extra hours there, and then we could have both gone to Kyoto Station together and then went our own separate ways from there, but that would have been getting in her way and also we’d have to go through the emotional goodbyes again in public this time, so we didn’t try for anything like that. I checked out, thanking the Floral Green Maple House front desk attendant for the great stay on the way out (I later gave them a very good review on, then took the Hankyu Line train from Saiin Station to Karasuma Station, and transferred to the Karasuma Subway Line from Shijo Station to Kyoto Station.

Once at Kyoto Station, I went to buy a shinkansen, settling on another Nozomi ride with to Tokyo Station. This basic fare + reserved seat ticket cost 14,170 yen, but was only slightly more expensive than the other shinkansen going to Tokyo. I could have skipped the reserved seat, but I wanted to do some blogging on the way to my next stop and wanted to be safe and have a wall outlet and some privacy — even in the reserved seat cars, virtually all the window seats (with access to the power outlet) were taken. I bought a bento box as well, which I later had on the train:

I had plenty of time to stand around and think about my Kyoto experiences, as our bullet train was delayed by about 20 minutes. Not that I minded, check-in wasn’t until 3 pm and the train ride from Kyoto Station to Tokyo Station was only slightly over 2 hours on this train, so I had time to kill anyway. The only thing I minded was that I had to constantly wrestle with my thoughts and emotions and I teared up a bit more than once while waiting. I was near the end of the long platform though, and the face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was also useful for concealing emotions in times like this, so no harm done. This is the last picture I took of Kyoto, not too long before my train arrived and we finally boarded:

Sayounara. Jaa mata?

On the train back, apparently one of the things that could happen was that Mt Fuji is sometimes visible out the windows on the left side of the train (from Kyoto to Tokyo, right side from the other directions) if the conditions were good. Conditions looked like this though, so it wasn’t happening:

Not that I remembered to look anyway, I was too busy clacking away on the keyboard and completely missed the part of the journey where it might have been visible. But it most likely wasn’t. Soon enough, we arrived in Tokyo Station.

My new lodging was apparently located near Ikebukuro, north of it in a residential neighbourhood. I had only booked this the night before, just before falling asleep, so it was very much last-minute. I intentionally kept this part unbooked before the program started because I wanted to keep my schedule flexible, just in case I “made a good friend and wanted to go somewhere with them afterwards” or something. And I actually did make a good friend and technically could have followed her somewhere, but she had already booked trips and housing and they were in the other direction, so I didn’t want to further intrude, and she’d probably have had to rebook housing too. Plus, again, it would probably have made the eventual goodbyes even harder. I did seriously consider it though.

Anyway, this meant that I was looking for some last minute deals on my usual booking site. I did find some places that I actually already knew — at least two of the places available were places that I had already stayed in during my last trip here, and one was the same hotel chain that I had stayed in at the start of this trip, but I wanted to try something new, so I picked a place called Japan House Ikebukuro that seemed to have decently good reviews. The nearest station to that was apparently Kita Ikebukuro (North Ikebukuro) Station, so from Tokyo Station, I took the Marunouchi Line to Ikebukuro Station, and then the local Tobu Tojo Line one stop to Kita Ikebukuro Station.

My duffel bag was quite heavy, but after some struggling, i got to the place of residence:

I had been assigned a downstairs, first-floor room, which was rare for me. it was a two-storey building with a narrow flight of stairs up, and I was told in the check-in note that the check-in process involves visiting one of the second level rooms to validate my identity and get a key, but no one answered the doorbell when I rang. I then read all the correspondence again and found a different note saying that my door should be unlocked and the key was hidden inside, so I went back down and into my room and indeed found it as expected. The guide must have been an old one — the check-in time on it was also listed at 5 pm, which had worried me, but the owner had assured me that 3 pm (like the website had said prior to the booking) was fine. And it was — I arrived right at 3 pm on the nose and got in with no problem.

This house was very cramped, though not without its charms:

There was a tiny living room, a little kitchenette, a small toilet and bathroom that were somehow split into two separate rooms, and ladders leading up to a little loft with tatami mats and a blanket and two pillows. There was a tiny fridge, a microwave, an electric water pot, a induction heater, a washer/dryer, and no television. Very minimalistic. When I opened one of the kitchen cupboard doors, this happened:

It was packed full and the two pots came tumbling out onto the ground. Thankfully it wasn’t 2 am at night with a neighbour below me or anything like that. One of the two pots was also filthy — it was covered in a thin layer of oil and I had to take it out to wash it. The other was washed but still had a little bit of water in it, obviously having just been cleaned earlier that morning.

I wasn’t impressed. The fridge, next to the cupboard door, also had a little surprise when I opened it:

That thing was broken and held together only by a flimsy piece of tape, so when I put my tea bottles in the fridge door holder and closed it, and then opened it much later on, the thing gave way and all my tea bottles scattered on the ground. Thankfully nothing there was made of glass. There are other issues with this place too — for example, the chair cushion seats are a little too big for the chair, the floor was a bit sticky in places and I definitely found a bit of hair belonging to previous residents, and the bathroom heater is pretty terrible — there at least is a heater system, but the heating vent is pointed away from the bar provided for hanging up the clothes hangers on, so it’s not efficient at all and takes forever to dry. Unlike my last house. At least I haven’t seen a single bug well into my second day here, despite it being a ground floor apartment.

At this point, I sat down, opened the packet of sweets that Zian had sent me, and started to eat them.

I think they were mochi of various flavours, though I’m not good with names of sweets so I can’t be certain for sure. This is when I definitely cried the hardest though — this felt like the final page of that previous chapter of my life, like I was somehow eating away the last of our friendship, and doubly so because I knew it was something that had to be consumed and could not be kept. It wasn’t even really that good — I don’t have a sweet tooth so it was a little bland and sticky and that was about it — I had actually wanted the experience of visiting it with her because I knew that SHE had a sweet tooth, so I had recommended it to her once I found it, but I could feel the love and friendship in it anyway and appreciated it very much. I folded up and kept the wrapper and all the papers that came along with it in my bag of trip receipts and brochures.

After calming down and settling in, I went for a long walk around the neighbourhood to scope out the stores and supermarkets. I went south and didn’t really find anything of note, though I did find a vending machine selling the Juurokucha (十六茶) that I like. 120 yen though. I bought one and marked its place. There were also some interesting local shops around:

And funny/weird signs that I wished Zian was here to see:

I really felt empty walking around without her, and knowing that she was somewhere else far away. I felt like a part of me was missing. But despite all that, that above sign made me laugh — it says that dog’s urine isn’t permitted, and the randomness of that sign, along with it being on a traffic cone tucked behind two metal posts by the side of the road, felt so absurdly out of place.

Walking south, I passed out of the quiet neighbourhood and past a series of train tracks and eventually walked right into Ikebukuro itself, about 20 minutes later.

I looked around a place, but everything looked a bit lifeless and dull, though that was likely more a reflection of my mental state than the place itself. I did find an interesting hole in the wall place to eat though, a food market area next to an Asian grocery store on the 4th floor of a random building with a tiny entrance.

This place was interesting, and I ordered a bowl of Shrimp Wonton.

Everyone spoke Chinese instead of Japanese too, which was fine by me. It was crowded so I took a walk around the supermarket first, it wasn’t huge but had a decent size of Chinese spices and herbs and things and had a scent about it that only a Chinese supermarket really does, and not a Korean, Japanese, or other similar one does. I’m not sure what the smell exactly is though, but it was very familiar to me.

Going back to the little food court area, I eventually found a seat and sat down. The tables were very much shared between random strangers though. I think this might be reflective of actual Chinese culture, but it’s not really one I’ve encountered in Singapore or Canada or elsewhere.

The order/payment method was also weird — after I ordered my food, the vendor gave me a weird card and a slip of paper that listed the item price (980) on it. I was supposed to then take it to the supermarket’s cashier area, and pay there, and then return to him with the card, at which point he’d then start making the meal. I guess this would allow me to order from different stores and then pay for all of them at once if I wanted to. I had no idea that that was what I was supposed to do with the card though, so I just sat around with it at my chair for a while, assuming that this place used a pay-after-eating system, until I noticed that no one else around me seemed to have a card. I looked at the vendor quizzically, before I stood up again to ask him and he told me what to do. He then took the card from me, and delivered the food about 10 minutes later.

After this, I walked around Ikebukuro a little more, then checked out a bunch of supermarkets, convenience shops, and vending machines on the way home to get a sense for the price and local food options in the place. Some of the interesting things I saw included these fortune telling booths that really made me want to go home and finish my blog so I can play more Persona 5 Royal on my Steam Deck:

This dance school that a bunch of parents were standing outside of and watching their kids through a giant window:

And this cat that was mewing loudly at passersby but then turned and ran away shyly when I came a little closer for a picture:

I then arrived home and took a long shower, then started to work on my blog as always. I was anticipating a call with Zian tonight, but she let me know that her place in Hiroshima had no WiFi, weirdly, so we postponed it to another night instead. This was actually probably a good thing for me too, since the one extra night of time apart helped me regain control of my emotions. We did chat a little through text chat, which I also appreciated very much since I know she’s not the best at it (especially since English isn’t even her primary language). She said that she was only at that house in Hiroshima for one night, and her next place, in Hakata for three nights, definitely had WiFi. She had checked to be sure!

There was one other unpleasant footnote to this place, which was the sleeping area. By itself, in a vacuum, it would have been fine. I don’t mind climbing up a ladder to the top of a loft to sleep on, and I had enough room up there to sit upright on my mattress. I had also never done it before so it was kind of cool, plus it seemed clean enough. The issue, however, was that being Japan, the walls and ceiling/floor are paper thin, and I had neighbours above me that were very unintentionally (I hope) noisy, with thumps and bumps and bangs and footsteps the entire night. Right up until 4 am. And because my sleeping loft was located up above the kitchen, right up against the ceiling, I could hear every last thing they did, and some of the louder sounds made my ear pop in a way that very much reminded me of my noisy neighbours at home in Edmonton 205 (except that one was from a loud stereo).

I filed a complaint to the manager on the app, to which he replied the following day apologizing for that and saying that he’ll have a word with the people living above. I also banged against the ceiling a few times during the night to try to get them to stop, but that didn’t seem very effective either. A mural on the wall of my apartment summarized my experiences with this house very aptly:

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